“I don’t think you’re dying,” I said. “I think you’ve just got a touch of cancer.” –John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
I remember hearing the phrase, “the gift of cancer” before I had cancer. Being a person who believes in transformation, I thought it had a certain ethereal elegance to it. I mean look at Lance Armstrong (at least back then before the confessions of all that steroid use put him in the club with athletes who did not have cancer but might someday have bones like sawdust and be out of their minds) … he won the Tour de France! He had taken adversity on a winning bike ride and then started a foundation that would serve others. Other famous people, some still alive and others not as fortunate, had come forward with messages of profound learning leading to life changes. Hmmm … their stories were deeply moving. They spoke of misery and affliction which had not been chosen but rather thrust upon them. The courage of their choices in the face of trauma and suffering was inspirational. Yes, cancer, a life threatening disease did appear to be a fine present wrapped in a cloak of darkness!
When was told I had an aggressive breast cancer, my first thought was not “thank you, I am absolutely thrilled with this gift!” Attempting not to hyperventilate, keel over and hit my head thereby fast tracking my death, I called my husband. He was not excited either, we did not open a bottle of Champagne. As an ordinary woman living an ordinary life I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, hoping that my ordinary life, which suddenly seemed remarkably precious, would continue.
Imagine opening your birthday present and finding “the gift of cancer” nicely wrapped in tissue. Whoa … this is not the gift I had in mind. I would have preferred a million bucks. Now that’s a gift. A few moments after being diagnosed with cancer, I started wondering how to return this gift because re-gifting in this case really just did not seem right at all. Fairly soon after diagnosis I began a serious and debilitating course of treatment that I hoped would end up in an exchange for “the gift of remission.
Have a good day … have a good laugh.